The leaders in the Barcelona World Race, Jean Le Cam and Bernard Stamm, are this afternoon just 15 miles from the coast of North Africa, sailing at 15 knots off the coast of Casablanca.
The pair on board Cheminées Poujoulat have so far maintained solid boat speeds in moderate and shifty south-westerlies – 15 knots at this afternoon’s update – by sailing close to shore to avoid a high pressure system lodged over the Gulf of Cadiz. However, there will be little time for complacency as they approach the entrance to the largest port in North Africa, with shipping traffic as well as coastal weather effects to contend with for their final day of Atlantic sailing.
Cheminées Poujoulat is currently expected to cross the Straits of Gibraltar tomorrow (Sunday, March 22) morning, and to arrive in Barcelona on Wednesday, March 25.
Second placed Neutrogena is expected at Gibraltar some five days later. Together with third placed GAES Centros Auditivos they continue to reach north in 12-15 knot north-westerlies. Neutrogena was the fastest of the pairs this morning, some 210 miles north of GAES, although both are matching each other mile for mile over 24 hours. They look set to spend another 24 hours making miles to the north, before committing to a course east for the Mediterranean.
Embracing the simplicity
For the Spanish skippers onboard One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton and We Are Water the duel to cross the Doldrums first continues, just a shade under 200 miles separating the pairs east-to-west. But while the approach to the Equator can be intensely frustrating, it is also a reminder that the end of the race is approaching, and to enjoy every moment.
Ocean racer Nick Moloney, who has sailed around the world three times, sent a message to fourth-ranked Aleix Gelabertand Dídac Costa onboard One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton saying: “I must admit that I am extremely envious of you guys right now. It is often only when the journey is over that we really appreciate what was achieved, the raw actual memory and experience.”
Moloney sailed the Owen-Clarke designed One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton around the world solo in 2004 (then asSkandia, after Ellen MacArthur sailed the same boat to second in the 2001 Vendee Globe as Kingfisher) and despite losing the keel off South America, he was reunited with the yacht to complete the circumnavigation. “One thing that I believe with boats is that they have a soul… a heart even. I have had some boats that just didn’t feel right, were weak in construction, failed at the wrong time and continued to give up. This boat (your boat) is a survivor…a battler! Many sailors hold many great memories of their days and successes afloat on this boat…I am really delighted to see her still stretching her legs in open ocean with a great team and in a great fleet position.”
He advised the duo to enjoy these final days of the race, adding: “I have found that in life there is nothing more simple than time at sea. Try to find and take the time to enjoy what you have, where you are at and what you are doing…right here and now. Eat meals on deck as the sun rises or sets, paint pictures in words and continue to share them with us…embrace the freedom for soon this great journey will be over.”
For One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton’s nearest rivals, however, there is still a race to be had. Willy Garcia on We Are Water spoke today of their strategy for the Doldrums crossing as both boats battle for fourth.
“Now we are in the middle of the Doldrums, we choose to cross them in the western side, thinking that they could be narrower here. And in one or two days we’re going to see the exit of the Doldrums, and see if our option was the good one.”
He paid tribute to how well Costa and Gelabert have been performing, but was hopeful that in the close reaching conditions of the North Atlantic he and brother Bruno on We Are Water would have the speed advantage. “Our boat is faster in upwind conditions, also in downwind, but they have found the way to go very fast in downwind conditions. And we’re going to see now in the trade winds, in upwind conditions, I think we’re going to have more speed than them. But we’re going to have to wait to see if we are right.”
This morning We Are Water was indeed the fastest of the two, but at this afternoon’s speed check the Garcia brother were 5 knots slower in the fluky Doldrums conditions. Sixth placed Renault Captur, meanwhile, is once again sailing at 9 knots after a light winds morning off Cabo Frio and the Brazilian shore.
Conrad Colman on Spirit of Hungary is also enjoying the Atlantic Ocean return leg of the race, no doubt aided by some fast reaching conditions and the opportunity to make some positive strategic choices after the ‘rock and hard place’ scenarios which dominated their south-bound stage. He reported: “Our passage through the Le Maire straights four days ago was determined by the depression that I saw forming later this week and that we have touched yesterday. In the meantime we have been reaching nicely in wind from the north-west from a small high pressure zone ahead of us, and we have been allowed us go fast without excessive slamming and to set ourselves up for this weekend.
“The slingshot from this intense depressionary system will leave us running in good conditions through Sunday, after which we should enter into the orbit of another small depression at the latitude of Uruguay that should give us good pressure for the early part of the week. After that? Well, there my crystal ball starts to get a little foggy.” Conrad andNandor Fa are currently in seventh place, making good 12-13 knot averages and comfortably the fastest boat in the fleet, sailing over 310 miles in 24 hours.